Baseball and hotdogs.
What could be better on a hot summer evening? If there is a more archetypical activity for rural America in July, I don’t know what it would be.
The evening was wonderful! The Lovely Lady’s sister is in town with her two daughters and we headed to the ballpark to take in a semi-professional baseball game. To make things even better, it was one dollar hotdog night.
Seriously! Only a dollar for each one of those mystery-meat tube steaks, encased in a white bread bun and loaded with whatever condiment one could care to splat on from the self-service pump station. Mustard, ketchup, mayo, even a dollop of sweet pickle relish, were yours for the effort of holding the semi-nutritious, but unquestionably delicious, frank-on-a-bun under the nozzle and taking your chances on the quantity of material which would exit the opening.
Oh man! What a treat! The hometown team went ahead by three runs in the first inning and I had three hotdogs in my hand. Three! Well, to be completely accurate, they were in my hand for a very small portion of that inning. They spent the rest of it inside of me. Oh, but was it satisfying!
Later in the evening, we would get dessert. Ice cream cones for the grown-ups, dipping dots (whatever those are) for the kids.
Everything was washed down with pure water.
What a meal! What ambiance in our dining area! We yelled—we clapped—we danced when the jumbo screen told us to—we even yelled at the umpire at least once. Hey. It’s a ball game.
I have paid over a hundred dollars for a meal which was no finer than the one just described. A meal I enjoyed slightly less than those hotdogs and ice cream. Some things aren’t about the money.
The little three-year old beside me had a mitt on his hand for the first five innings, waiting for a foul ball or for a player to toss him a ball between innings. When he finally got one tossed up to him, the kid was beyond ecstatic, clutching his treasure in his little glove with a death grip. His father pretended to be unhappy, suggesting that he would have to play catch with the tyke until all hours of the night, but you could tell he was almost as happy as his son.
Besides the balls, we saw tee-shirts being thrown to the crowd at different times. None came our way, but it was fun to see the missiles, wrapped tightly for their journey, rocketed to their targets. One was even flung all the way from the top of the dugout into the upper deck, where a kid hung over the rail, begging for a prize.
We danced the chicken dance; we shouted Charge! at the appropriate moment in the music; we even sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch.
We got to root, root, root for the home team. They even won, so we didn’t think it a shame at all.
What a great evening!
There was one moment though—one moment—when the the joy of celebrating the traditions which millions live out every baseball season was overcome by a different sensation:
Noticing a stir in the crowd over a section or two from where we sat, we turned to look. A couple of men had walked down the steps of the bleachers and were shouting out something. It wasn’t all that odd to hear the word at a ballgame.
What happened next was fun, for a minute. After that it was just a little weird, almost surreal. With one man handing the wrapped hotdogs to the other, they began giving the food away—by tossing it to the audience nearby. Hotdogs swaddled in foil wrap went this way and that as folks held up their hands for their share.
Where the situation turned strange was the point at which people further away in the crowd, some right next to us, started calling out and holding up their hands for the free food. Who doesn’t want free hotdogs?
The man heaved one our way. Halfway over the crowd, the wrapping separated from the food. A little farther on, the bun separated from the sausage inside. When the food arrived at our general location, it was nothing but the wiener.
He tried several more times, with no better success. By this time, half of us were laughing. No one wanted the portion of the food which reached its target, so it was wasted completely.
Seeing the problem, the man left his post, waving at the folks next to us to wait. Climbing the steps, he made the trek over to stand at the entrance to our section, fifteen or so rows above us.
He made the effort again. Nope. The food left the wrapper just as it arrived at its target, leaving the hungry fan grasping a piece of paper, but no food.
He gave up—we thought.
Everyone turned back to the game, but I couldn’t shake the strange feeling. What had just happened? Flying food at a baseball game? How ridiculous is that?
I have never experienced anything quite as weird as seeing those naked hotdogs sailing through the air. My guess is the cleanup crew is in for a surprise tonight, too.
Moments later, without any ado and without any showmanship, the man was standing behind their chairs. Placing a wrapped hotdog into the hand of each of the folks who had requested one, he smiled and, turning, headed back up the grandstand to the top and disappeared.
As the home team made the last out, we stood to give them one last round of applause. Leaving the stadium, we all declared the evening a great success.
No one spoke of the flying food. I’m still not sure what to think.
Anyone who reads my essays with regularity will know that there is a lesson to be learned from the flying food. I’m almost afraid to make the point. I’ve never used hotdogs as an object lesson before.
When we do things in a good and orderly manner, we usually see the results of our labor.
The baseball tossed into the stands brought a broad smile to the little tyke, giving him a memento to treasure for a long time.
The kid hanging over the railing on the top deck will wear his tee-shirt with pride.
Those items were intended to be delivered from a long distance, packaged for the journey. The cover on the baseball, glued and stitched on, ensures that it will arrive intact, as does the paper tape with which the shirts were bound.
Not so, the food.
The food was made to be passed from one hand to another, the one-on-one transaction guaranteeing the entire package is obtained. Nothing is lost in this arrangement, all the benefit is realized.
Shortcuts make long delays. So says Mr. Tolkien. Personally, I think often the result is utter failure.
I won’t belabor the point. Some things make the long journey between points well—money, gifts, merchandise, sometimes even flowers.
Other things need to be delivered in person—good news, bad news, apologies, declarations of love. The reader will, no doubt, be able to add any number of items to this list.
As much as I employ the medium of communication from afar, I realize it is grossly inadequate to convey with clarity all that needs to be understood. Often, what we’re left with is misunderstanding and blank spaces.
Words gone amiss, communicated from afar.
Perhaps, there is a reason, our Savior said Go. Not transmit. Not throw.
Words spoken between individuals, with a personal connection, are much more likely to be understood with clarity than a message sent from a distance.
Is there a place for media in giving the good news? Sure there is. Paul, the Apostle, sent numerous missives with messages for folks. But, whenever the opportunity came, he traveled to where they were.
He went. We need to do the same.
No more flying hotdogs.
Good food—given at the right time, every part intact.
If God’s love is for anybody anywhere, it’s for everybody everywhere.
(Edward Lawlor ~ Nazarene minister/general superintendent ~ 1907-1987)
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—
(Paul ~ Romans 1:11 ~ ESV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.